By Lisa Rozner

WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The pandemic has made it difficult to visit loved ones with dementia at assisted living facilities, so some staff and residents are going the extra mile to make Christmas bright.

“I’d like to have my family with me in my home,” said 82-year-old Norma Goldberg.

As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reports, Goldberg has Alzheimer’s disease, and her daughter says it has been the toughest 10 months of her life without socialization.

“She doesn’t read anymore. She doesn’t watch television. She doesn’t know how to turn it on,” said her daughter Jill Cohen.

Cohen has something called “essential caregiver” status, which New Jersey allowed family members to apply for through each facility in August. At Arden Courts in West Orange, it means she can visit twice a week for two hours, with proof of a negative COVID test.

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Christmas Eve reminded her mom of the loss of her boyfriend, who she used to celebrate the holiday with.

“We talk about things, and I dance with her and I get a smile back. But sometimes I can’t get her to that point. Today I was lucky,” Cohen said. “There’s nothing that can replace a hug, a human touch, a kiss.”

Previously, Bill Borrelle got a his 95-year-old mom a mechanical dog to break isolation in a South Jersey facility. She is blind, hard of hearing and has dementia.

For Christmas, sadly, she’s in quarantine due to potential exposure to a staff member. Borrelle will only get a phone call.

“It’s a very real, tangible anxiety we feel as family members. Being kept out of seeing our loved ones,” Borelle said.

At a facility in Paramus there are window visits and staff is coordinating video visits as well.

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“We’re going to do brief facetimes in the resident apartments while they open their gifts,” said Risa Kory, RN and administrator at Harmony Village at CareOne Paramus.

A holiday menu with filet mignon and holiday music fills the halls at Harmony Village at CareOne. Even Santa visited – and even those with advanced dementia often recognize him.

“We asked the families to send in an ornament that means something to the residents,” said registered nurse Joan DiPaola, a dementia care specialist.

“These people become our family,” she said.

And for those with family at home, the Alzheimer’s Foundation says going through photos and even writing and reading holiday cards is helpful.

“Those are all great ways to stimulate the mind and keep people active,” said Chris Schneider of the Alzheimer’s Foundation.

Estate planning attorney Laurie Hauptman says more clients are filing for power of attorney.

“People understand that you need to have a documents or a plan in place,” she said.

For now, Cohen reminds her mom:

“You’re my home, and you’re my life. And you know I’ll always be with you, right?” she said.

Cohen tells her the COVID vaccine is the light at the end of this tunnel.

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Foundation, CLICK HERE. They also have a hotline that’s available seven days a week. You can reach it at 1-866-232-8484.

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